Do not marry your hand!

If you have been playing poker for a while or even watching in on TV, I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “There must be bells going off in his head right now.” You’ll usually hear this after someone flops a set, two pair, straight, or other “monster” hand as Vince would put it, basically flopping the nuts. I’m sure you’ve been sitting at the table at some point in your poker career, flopped the best possible hand and heard wedding bells. You are ready to marry the hand, but first how can I trap the other suckers at the table; do I slow play it, or just go all-in? First of all, it is very important to study the board, and understand what can make your “nuts” not the nuts anymore. For instance, lets say you are holding pocket 10’s (10c / 10s) and the board comes up 10h, 9h, 2c. You are in fact holding the nuts, and I’m sure your just fell in love with your hand, but wait… there is a possible flush and straight on the board and very few ways to improve your hand. You would need a 10, 9, 2 or runner runner pair to improve your hand while someone holding two heats can improve their hand with 9 cards, or even more if he has straight possibilities too. The important thing to do in this situation is to make the other people at the table pay to see that next card. Giving them a free card at this point almost certainly spells trouble. After the turn, if the flush or straight didn’t show on the board, make them pay even more. The important thing is to make them pay for it and increase your odds of them just folding and taking the pot. Sometimes it is better to get something than risk losing everything. However, the most important thing is to be able to switch gears emotionally when the flush or straight does show. 60 seconds ago you had the nuts, and now your don’t. It is very hard to switch gears! All to often a player just can’t let the hand go because they married it from the get go. Don’t marry your hands and learn to through them away.

Let me give you an example. In my earlier days of playing poker, I was sitting in a NL tournament and was about half way through the field. I would say that I had an average stack. Along came Qs 10s, not a band hand so I called. The flop came Js, 8s, 9h; I flopped the nut straight, and had a flush and straight flush draw. Can you say wedding bells? There were only three people in the hand at this point and I was in first position, so I just checked to dig the hole a little bit. 2nd position checked and 3rd bet 150, a pretty good-sized bet. Of course, the wedding bells just got louder for me, I thought about it for a while and just called. The other better folded. 4th street brought another spade and improved my hand to a queen high flush. Again, I checked and got another 150 bet, and again I just called. The river brought another spade, which did nothing for me. Again, I just checked. Finally, the better went all in, and with my queen I flush “I just had to call”. It was all over when he flipped over the ace of spades (and a rag). I was married to that hand from the second the flop hit.

These days I’ve learned enough to know that:

A) I should of made him pay to see those cards

B) I needed to let it go. Don’t marry your hands!

Good luck at the tables.